King of the world

At sea with URi’s Ballard. Plus, pilin’ on Palin, and hanging with Mike and Lucia.
By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  December 2, 2009

Tanaka in action.

There was a very nice star turn on the November 29 edition of 60 Minutes by URI's Bob Ballard, although the university got scant mention.

Ballard is a rare breed of scientist because he actually speaks English and enables mere mortals to understand what he is doing with his research. He is also a true eccentric in only the best sense. Phillipe met Bob in 1985 when he came to speak at Save the Bay's annual meeting just after he discovered the wreck of the Titanic, and P. was assigned to squire him around at a fundraiser in Newport. Halfway through the event at a private home, Ballard vanished, leaving all the attendees looking for the guest of honor. P. finally tracked him down in an upstairs bedroom playing video games with the sons of the hostess, much more content doing that than schmoozing with the bigwigs.

What was not known at that time was the true nature of the voyage that ended up with the Titanic being found. Ballard, then a US Navy commander, was actually on a secret mission to find two Navy nuclear submarines, the Thresher and the Scorpion, that had sunk in the 1960s. After accomplishing that, Ballard asked if he could have a few more days at sea to look for the Titanic, being fairly certain he knew where it was.

This turned out to be a nightmare for the Navy brass when the Titanic was duly discovered and made international headlines, because they had to come up with an excuse for what Ballard was doing for the bulk of his trip, since they wanted it to be hush-hush. Only years later was Ballard allowed to speak about it publicly.

At any rate, Ballard's new Inner Space Center on the campus of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, where Phillipe happens to work as well, is a hugely ambitious institution whose work is, as Ballard always puts it, like the NASA of the oceans — although we know more about outer space than we do about what's at the bottom of the sea.

A well-deserved feature, certainly better than highlighting Little Rhody's economic woes.


How many people do you know who have actually read Sarah Palin's new book, Going Rogue? How does none sound?

By now almost everyone has beaten up on Palin, so why not P+J? It is not so much that she is a moron, but that she always claims she is being treated horribly by the media for pointing out that quite obvious fact. She is a walking contradiction, as anyone who preaches abstinence while her teenage daughter is getting knocked up should be.

Speaking of Levi Johnston, we can hardly wait for him to finally spill the beans on Sarah, which should be about the time his 15 minutes of fame are nearly elapsed, which is rapidly approaching. And whoever coaxed him into posing for Playgirl magazine should be shot. That stunt is about as nauseating as Joey Buttafucco starring in a porn film, but now that Amy Fisher has also taken the low road as a stripper, maybe we can cut Joey some slack. But we won't be that generous with our appraisal of John Bobbitt, who also ended up in an X-rated flick.

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